Friday, June 9

Senate Passes Reconciliation Bill Despite Vote-a-Rama ‘Hell,’ Sinema Hiccup

Senate Democrats passed a sweeping $739 billion economic package on Sunday despite several last-minute worries including “vote-a-rama hell,” and concerns an amendment backed by Senator Kyrsten Sinema could tank the bill.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 was passed with the intention to lower the national deficit, and therefore lessen the inflation millions of Americans have been grappling with in recent months—while also investing in health care measures and efforts to combat climate change. It will do so in part by raising taxes on corporations.

It passed on party lines, with every Democrat voting for it and every Republican voting against it. Vice President Kamala Harris, who also serves as the president of the Senate, cast the tie-breaking vote, handing a major victory for President Joe Biden who last year failed to see his landmark Build Back Better bill pass the evenly-divided chamber.

The Senate passed a sweeping economic package known as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 on Sunday despite last-minute hiccups. Above, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer celebrates the bill’s passage in Washington, DC, on Sunday.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The victory for Democrats followed some uncertainty about whether or not the bill would pass.

Months of negotiation between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Sinema, who represent West Virginia and Arizona respectively, preceded the vote. Both senators have been viewed as obstacles to passing key elements of the Biden agenda.

Manchin and Schumer announced their deal on the spending package in July, while Sinema announced a deal with Schumer last week.

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Key Provisions Cut From Bill

While the bill’s passage is seen as a massive win for the Biden administration, two provisions pushed by Democratic leadership were left out of the final bill.

First, Democrats planned to pay for the spending, as well as cutting the deficit, in part by closing the carried interest loophole, which allows hedge fund managers and private equity firm executives to be taxed at a 15 percent capital gains tax rate instead of the higher income tax rates paid by many Americans. However, in order to reach a deal with Sinema, Schumer agreed to leave the loophole open and replace it with an excise tax on stock buybacks.

A proposal that would have capped monthly insulin payments at $35 per month for those with private insurance also was cut from the bill after the Senate parliamentarian ruled it violated reconciliation rules and it failed to garner enough Republican support to pass the filibuster, which mandates 60 votes .

Vote-a-Rama ‘Hell’

The final vote followed hours of a “vote-a-rama,” when senators introduced amendments to the bill, most of which failed to receive enough support to pass. Notably, Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, introduced several amendments, which he dubbed the “‘so-called’ Inflation Reduction Act” but ended up voting for it.

One of those amendments would have been to include an extension of the $300 per month Child Tax Credit. However, his amendment by him failed 97-1, as many Democrats vowed to vote down all amendments in an effort to keep the fragile deal together.

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Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, told reporters Friday that the vote-a-rama would be “like hell,” ABC News reported.

Sinema-backed SALT Deduction Cap Extension Endangered Bill

An amendment from Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, supported by Sinema, also could have sunken the bill if it was met with stronger opposition from other Democrats. The amendment will extend a cap on SALT deductions, which were originally passed in former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut bill.

Six other Democrats joined Sinema in supporting the amendment. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Jon Ossoff of Georgia, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, and Raphael Warnock of Georgia—all of whom representing seats that only narrowly backed Biden in 2020—voted for the amendment.

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